Jeff Burton won't return to the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 next season. The team announced that Burton would be leaving the team at season's end on Wednesday.
"We have been working hard to try and get all the funding in place to have four Sprint Cup teams in 2014," Childress said. "With the date on the calendar getting closer to 2014, we just couldn't run partially funded teams next year. Knowing what Jeff's plans were in 2015, he and I worked out an agreement for him to step out of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet after this season."
Burton said that he had planned to move on to other opportunities at the end of 2014, and that the team and he decided to accelerate that. He also said that he doesn't have any plans for 2014 lined up.
"I'll be honest with you, I don't know, I've been so entrenched in thinking about the 31 and racing for a championship and, I don't want to say this just fell on me but -- I haven't had a whole lot of time to think through it," Burton said.
"I love racing and I still have a passion for it -- but part of the realities are, what opportunities are going to be there? I think I'm just going to have to see what comes in front of me. I don't anticipate doing something that I don't think would be competitive.
Since joining Richard Childress Racing in 2005, Burton, 46, has four wins, though his last was in 2008. While Burton is departing his sponsor, Caterpillar, is staying with RCR.
While Childress said that the team didn't have the funding for four cars, just one car and driver combination for next season has been finalized for the team. That's Paul Menard in the No. 27. Austin Dillon, his grandson, is likely headed to the Cup Series in another car, so that leaves a third open. Could it possibly be Ryan Newman?
And while Burton is unclear about his 2014 plans, it's just a guess, but don't be surprised if he's involved in broadcasting in some capacity in 2015 when NASCAR's new television deals with Fox and NBC begin. When asked Wednesday about television, Burton expressed his interest.